I had such a huge, busy day yesterday, I can’t even tell you. If I wrote about all of it in detail I would be here forever, so you will have to make do with just the important part.
The day really started in the very early hours of the morning. I was awake because I was reading. I was reading because I was on the final pages of a book, the completion of which signified WINNING MY FIRST BROWNIE BADGE!! YAY!! I finally won the first badge of the Brownie Points themed season, and it only took me a month. I am so excited!! Here is my badge, and here is the Brownie Points page where you will be able to see the badges gradually stack up.
This turned out to be an unexpectedly interesting project. I like reading, I read all the time and don’t bother collecting any Achievement points for it, but, in all honesty, another reason why I don’t collect points is because I very often read things and abandon them before I get to the end. I think that’s very common, isn’t it. To read half of something and then lose interest, I’ve done that so many times. Also I’m very guilty of reading things that are lightweight and easy when in fact I would be much more stimulated and satisfied by reading something more challenging. Gradually rectifying that situation turned out to be what this first Brownie badge, the Bookworm badge, was about. First I read Dataclysm by Christian Rudder, which, while far from stupid (it is full of interesting maths, linguistics and social science) is a great example of the sort of thing I would read anyway even if I wasn’t trying to accomplish anything special, and I think I read it nearly in one sitting.
After that, it dawned on me that I should take the opportunity represented by this Brownie Badge, which is an invitation to do something different, by reading something that I’ve had on my list for ages and have been meaning to get around to, which is why I read Virginia Woolf’s Orlando and reviewed it here. I had to persevere with it a bit, not least because I was recovering from the happy pills, which utterly destroyed my powers of concentration, so it was kind of an effort and I’m not ashamed to admit that I used Sparknotes to help me follow and understand it when my brain was particularly fried. I loved it and it was really worth it, I’m so glad I read it.
Based on this small success, I went on to read The Great Mortality: An Intimate History of the Black Death, by John Kelly. It is a long, detailed and scholarly account of the Great Plague of the mid 1300s, beginning with its origins in the Eurasian Steppe and following its vicious journey around Europe, where it wiped out the population on the scale of a thermonuclear disaster over a period of about eight horrifying years. I began to read this book months ago and gave up on it the moment it became too much like hard work. Then, so much time elapsed that I found I had forgotten every word and had to start again from the beginning. This time, I stuck with it, concentrated, finally finished it as the sun came up. It was amazing and I will do a full review here as soon as I have time.
I want to say, without the new Brownie Badges project, I would never have made it to the end of The Great Mortality. I’d already abandoned it once and certainly would have done so a second time, had I even attempted it a second time, which is not usually how things go. But on this occasion, because I wanted the Bookworm badge, I stuck with it. I made time for it even though I was busy at work and even though there were many other things I wanted to do with my little bit of free time just as much. Now I have finally made it to the end, I feel pleased and well-informed. That’s why I’m so excited about the Bookworm badge that I’ve just earned. I saw it change my habits. I was already reading, but wanting to earn the badge made me read in a very focused way, making a priority out of reading, and sticking with worthwhile works of literature all the way to the end.
So that is great. I am collecting 1 Books point for The Great Mortality, and I am claiming the Bookworm Badge because I checked off all my objectives for that.
Next steps and further ideas, in light of this Brownie Badges project, which is turning out to be so much more interesting than I expected.
- The way these gamification schemes always go is that no sooner have you collected an achievement, than there’s a bigger one or a more specialised one waiting. Therefore, I might go for another Badge that’s called something like Big Bookworm where the idea is to read six books instead of three. If I could do that, then I could follow with Super Bookworm, which involves reading nine books, and so on. I’m sort of envisaging five levels of Badge. So if the levels went up in increments such that there was an objective of 3 books, followed by 6 books, then a further 9 books, and so on. then I would have read a total of 45 books by the time I claimed the Ultimate Bookworm Badge, which would be quite something, wouldn’t it. The criterion for these general Bookworm Badges is that I can read anything I want as long as it has some merit. It can’t be crap. But they don’t all have to be related, by subject matter or anything like that.
- I really enjoyed reading about the 1300s and it occurred to me that perhaps I could go for an Historian Badge. I was thinking that what I could do for that, or at least the first level of it, is pick a period of history that interests me, like the Middle Ages or the Tudors or whatever, read 2 books about it, visit 2 historical sites (plenty of those around London) and perhaps make or draw something that is relevant to the period. Could be good fun, couldn’t it. I became quite interested in Edward III while I was reading about the Plague.
- Because I enjoyed reading Orlando, it also occurred to me that maybe I could do some sort of specialised Classic Novels badge. Just to keep me pursuing all those books that I haven’t read but think I should read before I die, like Moby Dick and The Count of Monte Cristo and so on. War and Peace. Or maybe this is too ambitious or not focused enough, I don’t know, I’ll have to think about it. I would have to decide ahead of time what counts as a Classic Novel.
Look at the time, I need to go to bed. More news tomorrow. One final thing: I went to the gym and swam today. It was very scary returning to the gym after so many months away and I hate my bulky, overweight body but there is only one way to solve that problem and the gym is it. So I swam. 30 lengths. 1 Health point.
I am totally going to start working towards a Swimming Badge.